Learning to control the breath is one of the most powerful (and free!) neurohacks we have for improving concentration, managing stress and developing optimal health. Our breath constantly nourishes our body at a cellular level, by bringing in oxygen and flushing out carbon dioxide. Oxygen is cell fuel, every illness and disease begins with the lack of oxygen on cellular level.
By breathing in an anatomically correct way, you allow the diaphragm to drop downward and flatten, the rib cage to expand and create more space for the lungs to inflate. By breathing congruously, increased oxygen floods into the body, eventually helping the heart pace to slow down to create feelings of calmness and relaxation.
Don't take breathing for granted — doing it correctly and has massive benefits for your health. Here are 7 ways anatomically correct breathing can help your body and mind:
1. Calms your nervous system
Diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us into a relaxed state (“rest and digest”). It functions the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system, which increases your breathing rate through what is called the fight-or-flight response.
2. Lowers your blood pressure and heart rate
Relaxation research shows that breathing techniques can ward off disease by making people less susceptible to viruses and by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels. When we breathe in a deep, relaxed fashion we move from a destructive metabolic state to a constructive one. This shift from operating in a chronic stress mode to a mode of relaxed alertness can improve the synthesis of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
3. Uses the lower, bigger, denser part of the lungs
Shallow breathing shifts the diaphragm's range of motion. The lowest portion of the lungs — which is where many small blood vessels instrumental in carrying oxygen to cells reside — never gets a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious. Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide.
4. Helps you avoid constipation, acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome
Optimally your breathing muscles stimulate peristalsis, the wavelike motion of intestines that promotes digestion and elimination. Without this internal abdominal massage, you are likely to find yourself coping with issues such as bloating, constipation, gas, heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome.
5. Supports the health of your back and pelvic floor
Breathing with the lower part of your body is essential to your back health. Dysfunctional breathing causes neck and shoulder pain, mid-back pain and tightness and can cause lower back and pelvic floor discomfort. A healthy pelvic floor stretches as we breathe in and contracts slightly as the breath goes up and out. If the muscles of the pelvic floor don’t receive the gentle ‘exercise’ they need, it may result in pelvic pain or dysfunctional urinary/bowel emptying. Everything is connected, and deep belly breathing is the most efficient way to take care of the pelvic floor.